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Questions to Ask when Looking for Pet-Friendly Housing for Older Adults (and the Disabled)


Here in Northeast Ohio, someone is considered an "older adult" when they are at least 55. That sounds pretty young to me, but that seems to be the cutoff age for group residential housing around here. No matter where you live in the US, there's bound to be residential facilities for older adults. The starting age may differ where you live. Sometimes, these facilities also accept disabled residents.

Toogs is too big for (most) group housing facilities. Also, he's not trained as a service dog or a therapy dog. He does, however, provide companionship to his person.

If having your pet live with you is an important part of making a decision to move to a new location, such as group housing, you need to know the following information. Note that if you are seeking low-income housing that is subsidized by the federal government, such as through HUD, they must allow you the opportunity to bring a pet. However, they are allowed to impose fees and restrictions.

Since not every residential facility allows pets, the first question you need to ask is if they accept pets for any reason. Otherwise, here are the questions you'll need to ask so you can be prepared. 

  1. Must my pet be a service, support, or assistant animal to be allowed to live with me?
  2. What kind of pets do you allow to live with me? 
  3. How many pets may I have? 
  4. Is there a size restriction on the pet? 
  5. Is a deposit required? If so, how much and is it refundable?
  6. Is there an additional monthly fee for having a pet?
  7. What veterinary care is required before I may bring a pet?
  8. What else do I need to know that I haven't asked?

We asked some of these questions during in-person visits to several residential facilities in Northeast Ohio several years ago. Of those asked, the answers varied somewhat. For those that allowed their residents to have pets live with them, these were the most common answers with regard to those with dogs or cats.

  1. They accepted 1 dog that weighs less than 30 pounds OR 1 cat. Some were willing to consider 2 cats and rarely 2 dogs. The one exception was a woman who was blind and had another medical problem, like seizures, requiring dogs that were trained for each medical need.
  2. If a deposit was required, it was nonrefundable. The deposit could be cost-prohibitive for some, such as $250-$500 per pet.
  3. Some added a fee to the monthly rent, such as an extra $10-$50 per month.
  4. Veterinary care was required prior to entry as well as annual veterinary care thereafter. Care requirements included annual vaccines and parasite control. 

If you have more than one pet or if you have a large dog, you will need to consider renting a house that allows pets or move to a house you own that better suits your needs.

If you have trouble taking care of your pet's daily needs, you will need to consider hiring a pet sitter. Their fees vary based on several things, such as their travel distance to your home, the number and types of pets you have, and the number of times you need them to come to your home. It would not be unusual for them to charge you $15-20 per visit for one pet.

For those who have multiple pets or pets that cannot move with you, it poses a secondary problem. Where to place those pets? Ask family, neighbors, or friends if they'd be willing to take your pet(s). Ask a local pet shelter, pet rescue, or pet foster group if they can help find a home for your pet(s). Ask your veterinarian for advice.

We know that moving is a challenge for anyone. If you have pets, the challenge increases. We hope you find the general information above useful and that it makes your life a little less challenging. 

UPDATE 2/17/2020: One Health Organization provides general information about pet-friendly housing. We regret that we cannot help you find pet-friendly housing. We hope the information below can help guide you as you look for pet-friendly housing in your desired community.

UPDATE 4/5/2019: If you live in (Northeast) Ohio and need to find affordable housing for you and your pet, try dialing 211 or check out their website at http://ouw.org/211-map. Otherwise, you can check out this website, paid by our tax dollars, at https://www.usa.gov/finding-home. We wish you the best possible outcome for you and your pet!

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